In the internet age, it is easy to quickly generate outrage and righteous anger by simply filming someone and putting it on social media platforms, where it can quickly be shared, and the outrage caused increased as more and more people join the conversation about the injustice they are witnessing.
Increasingly, part of this justice includes the attacker being attacked online and ‘doxxed’ – private or personally identifying information is found out about them and then shared publicly online. We are seeing this type of doxing more often, as victims of racially motivated attacks and injustices have started filming those who seek to persecute them – putting it online in order to expose them to the world as a racist. In the cases of such racially motivated attacks, work or school addresses and contact information is shared in order to encourage those who are able to contact their place of education or employment, to make sure that they are held accountable for their actions.
the history of doxing has an incredibly dark underbelly
Indeed, the history of doxing has an incredibly dark underbelly – misogynists online have doxxed women who are publicly feminist by sharing their personal contact information and address in order to encourage others to send them abuse and attack them. However, when used in this way, doxing tends to hold these people accountable for their actions, whilst also empowering those that they have attacked, bringing them to justice as they have proof as well as many others willing to stand behind them as they also see in the injustice happening, with insurmountable proof.
A recent example of this is Alison Ettel, a.k.a ‘Permit Patty’ – a woman who called the police on an eight year old girl who was selling water on the side of the road without a permit. Ettel claimed that this incident was not racially motivated, and was instead because she was ‘working to deadlines’ and that the little girl’s ‘completely repetitive, every second’ calls to passers-by to buy water meant that she ‘couldn’t concentrate at all’. She also claimed that she only called the police after the little girl and her mother refused to move, and simply called to inquire as to whether or not it was legal for the girl to be selling water – not to report them.
However, the girl’s mother, Erin Austin tells a different story, and so does the video she took and subsequently posted online. In Austin’s account, Ettel marched up to her daughter and demanded to see a permit, before calling the police on her. In the clip, Ettel is clearly seen on the phone to the police, where she says ‘yeah, um, illegally selling water without a permit…on my property’. This implies that she was not innocently inquiring as to the legality of the situation, and was instead calling the police on Austin and her child. Austin said that the fact that Ettel wanted to call the police on a child of colour after there have been several incidents of police killing black children for either minor misdemeanours or for no crime at all, shows that she is ‘evil’ and that she ‘doesn’t care about [her] or [her] child’s life’.
victims of racially motivated attacks and injustices have started filming those who seek to persecute them
Since the incident’s publicity online and the backlash it caused, Ettel has stepped down as CEO of TreatWell Health, a cannabis product company. She has told new outlets that her name and her company’s name has been ‘tarnished’ by the incident, citing incidents of ‘harassment’ and ‘bullying’ happening to her employees after people called for a boycott of the company. She has also said she was sorry for her actions, and has issued an apology to Austin and her daughter, although Austin has questioned her sincerity as her apology was only given after she received negative consequences for her actions.
Incidents like these serve to highlight the ever-growing problem of minorities being harassed for doing seemingly innocuous things. The fact that people are able to film them in order to hold accountable those who are being aggressive towards them is a huge step in not only attempting to stop these incidents, but for getting people who are not minorities to understand the sheer level of harassment that the former face day to day in America.
Justice served online does seem to have a tendency to prove reactionary
There is an argument to be made that others should not be harassed for an individual’s actions – if Ettel’s claims that people were pulling products of her shelves and harassing her employees are true, then this may have been a step too far from the internet vigilantes. Justice served online does seem to have a tendency to prove reactionary, and methods such as harassing employees should not be encouraged or taken lightly. However, Ettel has been held accountable and faced consequences for something that – had it not been filmed and displayed online – she may have walked away from without any kind of penalty.
In cases like these, it seems to one that doxing may be justified. When people such as Ettel attack others for no reason bar their own personal prejudices, they deserve to be punished for it – something that may not necessarily happen without the kind of pressure thousands of retweets, calls and emails can put on an institution or business. If Ettel hadn’t been filmed, even if Austin had complained to Ettel’s company, the latter being the company’s CEO would negate any negative consequences intended within the call, and Ettel most likely would have continued to be the CEO of said company. In any case, in all of these incidents, the perpetrators were not provoked in a manner that would enrage a reasonable person, and therefore they should be held accountable for their racist actions.
It is also important to notice that the “crime” is also not one that could be reported to the police – considering that the perpetrators are the ones invoking the police as a threat to minorities. Yes, they are publicly humiliated and in most cases punished for their actions, either by losing their job or losing a place in their preferred place of study, but one would hope that even if there was not the pressure of many people either contacting their place of work or calling them out on public forums like twitter then they would be asked to step down for racist action anyway. Doxing people like ‘Permit Patty’ is not a victimless crime, as much as Patty may like you to believe that.
Certainly, sensationalists maylook at doxing incidents such as these and whip themselves into a frenzy over an “Orwellian age” wherein offending the Big Brother of the Left will leave you out on the street, doxed and penniless. Yet the evidence is clear that this is not what is happening. Instead, there is progress being made wherein the claim ‘I was intimidated by them’ no longer holds water, as the aggression shown, or ridiculousness of this claim is clear. Racists are being exposed for what they are, and to sympathize with them for facing consequences for their actions is misguided in the extreme.
It also incredibly ignorant to suggest that these people are being treated in this way for anything less than being bigoted. Whilst no one else should suffer because of their actions (e.g. their employees), perpetrators need to be held accountable for threatening and harassing behaviour, and perhaps it is the internet age that will reduce unprovoked public rage.